Ottowa Tribe
Kansas Native Americans

This name was formerly applied by the French to all the Algonquin tribes who dwelt on the shore of Lake Superior and Upper Michigan; afterward, to that portion that made their homes in the more southern part of the State of Michigan, in the vicinity of Grand River, and in the States of Ohio and Indiana.


The first treaty concluded between the United States and the Indian tribes west of New York was at Fort McIntosh, January 21, 1785. It was with the Wyandots, Delawares, Chippewas and Ottawas, giving peace to those nations on certain conditions, and defining boundaries. Similar treaties were made with these tribes and others, at Fort Harmar, in 1789, by Gov. St. Clair; and at Greenville, in 1795, by Gen. Anthony Wayne; the latter being "to put an end to a destructive war, to settle all controversies, and to restore harmony and friendly intercourse between the said United States and Indian tribes." A boundary line between the United States and the country inhabited by the tribes was established, and trade was opened with them. At this time, a part of the Ottawas resided on the River Huron, of Lake Erie," and a part at the Miami.

At Detroit, on the 17th of November, 1807, the Ottawa, Chippewa, Wyandot and Pottawatomie nations ceded the following land: Beginning at the mouth of the Miami River of the lakes, and running thence up the middle thereof to the mouth of the Great Auglaize River; thence running due north until it intersects a parallel of latitude, to be drawn from the outlet of Lake Huron which forms the River Sinclair; thence running northeast, the course that may be found will lead in a direct line to White Rock, in Lake Huron; thence due east until it intersects the boundary line between the United States and Upper Canada in said lake; thence southwardly, following the said boundary line down said lake, through River Sinclair, Lake Sinclair and the River Detrot, into Lake Erie, to a point due east of the aforesaid Miami River; thence west to the place of beginning.

To the Ottawas was paid in consideration of their share in this cession, $3,333.33 in money, an annuity of $800, and the services of a blacksmith, to reside at the Miami during the term of ten years, a tract of land being reserved to them "on the Miami of Lake Erie, above Roche de Boeuf, to include the village where the Tondaganie (or the Dog) now lives."

Other cessions were made by the treaty concluded with the tribe at the Rapids of the Miami September 29, 1817, and they were then granted by patent, a tract containing thirty-four square miles near the Miami River, and there was reserved for their use "but not granted to them: a tract of land "on Blanchard's Fork of the Great Auglaize River, to contain five miles square, the center of which tract is to be where the old trace crosses the said fork, and one other tract to contain three miles square, on the Little Auglaize River, to include Oquanoxas Village."

By the terms of the treaty concluded between the United States and the Ottawa nation, August 30, 1831, and ratified April 6, 1832, these bands of Ottawas (Blanchard's Fork and Roche de Boeuf) ceded the above- mentioned reservations (aggregating 49,917 acres) to the United States, and were assigned "a tract of land to be located adjoining the south or west line of the reservation, equal to fifty miles square, granted to the Shawnees of Missouri and Ohio, on the Kansas River and its branches."

In 1836, the Ottawas of Blanchard's Fork and Roche de Boeuf were removed from Ohio to this reservation, which was a tract of about ten by twelve miles, watered by the Marias des Cygnes River and its numerous small tributaries. It was in the heart of the present county of Franklin. The Indians, when removed, were inferior to many of the tribes then living in the Territory, but, through the influence of Jotham Meeker, supplemented by that of John T. Jones and his accomplished wife, they became, in process of time, an honest, industrious, prosperous people.

On the 24th of June, 1862, the Ottawas concluded a treaty with the United States, which, with amendment, was ratified July 16, 1862.

The following is the opening clause of the first article:

"The Ottawa Indians of the United Bands of Blanchard's Fork and of Roche de Boeuf, having become sufficiently advanced in civilization, and being desirous of becoming citizens of the United States, it is hereby agreed and stipulated that their organization and their relations with the United States as an Indian tribe shall be dissolved and terminated at the expiration of five years from the ratification of this treaty: and from and after that time, the said Ottawas, and each and every one of them, shall be deemed and declared to be citizens of the United States, to all intents and purposes, and shall be entitled to all the rights, privileges and immunities of such citizens, and shall, in all respects, be subject to the laws of the United /States, and of the State or States therof in which they may reside."

The principal provisions of the treaty were as follows:

The Ottawas were to become citizens of the State of Kansas in July, 1867, their annuities to be commuted and paid to them.

Heads of families were to receive 160 acres of land each, and all other members, eighty acres each; none of this land to be sold until they became citizens, and forty acres, including house and improvements, not to be sold during the life of the owner.

Twenty thousand acres of average lands were to be located for school purposes, and the remainder to be sold to actual settlers, at not less than $1.25 per acre. Four years later, the Ottawas were paid their last annuity. Of their lands, 87,000 acres were sold to settlers, and 20,000 given to Ottawa University.

February 23, 1867, a treaty was made with those still living in Kansas, providing for their removal to new homes in the Indian Territory. They were located on the Quapaw Reserve; the Blanchard Fork band numbering about one hundred and forty, and the Roche de Boeuf a trifle more. The latest reports from the Ottawas state that the tribe is progressing admirably.

Baptist Ottawa Mission
This mission was established by Rev. Jotham Meeker, and, as his name is so intimately connected with the history of the Ottawas in Kansas, a short sketch is given of his life:

On the 24th of November, 1825, Jotham Meeker, a young printer about twenty-one years of age, arrived at the Baptist Mission House at Carey, Mich., with the view of becoming a missionary. He was employed by the Rev. Isaac McCoy, then Superintendent of the mission, as his assistant, and, from that day until his death, thirty years after, his life and strength were devoted to the one object of Christianizing and improving the Indian.

He was assigned to the charge of the missionary schools, and, for the next two years, taught by turns at Carey and the neighboring station at Thomas. In August, 1827, he was made Superintendent of the Thomas Mission (Ottawa), Michigan, and introduced to the Indians as their minister. The old chief, Blackskin, evidently pleased with the choice that had been made for them, received the new-comer with the following welcoming speech:

"My brother, it is nothing bad that I am now about to say. We are all pleased that you have brought this young man to live with us. We are happy to hear that he is a speaker of things that are good. It is difficult for us to pronounce his English name, and we therefore desire to give him an Indian name. We have decided that his name shall be Mano-keke-toh (He that speaks good words). We have given him a good name. We hope he will remain with us, to teach us and our children good things, so that our children will be benefited, and be worthy of good names which you will give them."

Mr. Meeker was thereafter addressed by his new name. In September, 1830, Mr. Meeker was married, at Cincinnati, to Miss Eleanor Richardson, who had been a missionary at Thomas station. The young couple returned to the mission and resumed their labors, but, in compliance with the desire of his aged mother, Mr. Meeker returned to Cincinnati the following year, and recommenced the business of printing. He could not be satisfied, however, and soon broke up his business, and, leaving wife and mother, came to the Indian Territory, arriving December 18, 1831. After investigating the field of missionary labor in the Western wilderness, he returned to the East, and, in the fall of 1832, with his wife, went to the mission of Sault de Ste. Marie, among the Chippewas.

In the fall of 1833, Mr. Meeker and wife came to the Indian Territory as missionaries to the Shawnees, locating at that station. He brought with him a printing press and types, which were immediately put in use, and before spring, Mr. Meeker had printed several Indian books, according to the stenographic system which he had invented, and which was easily mastered by the Indians. The first newspaper, printed exclusively in an Indian language, was issued March 1, 1835. It was entitled Shau-wau-nowe Kesauthwau (Shawanoe Suin). It was edited by Dr. Johnston Lykins, written according to Mr. Meeker's system, and printed by him on the little press at the Shawanoe mission.

On May 14, 1837, Mr. J. G. Pratt, from Hingham, Mass., arrived at the Shawnee Mission, to take charge of the printing office and relieve Mr. Meeker, who very much desired to settle among the Ottawas, as he had acquired a thorough knowledge of their language during his residence among the Michigan tribe. The following June (1837) Mr. and Mrs. Meeker left the Shawanoes and located among the Ottawas, to remain with them until their death.

Mr. Meeker not only taught the Indians religious truths, but he also taught them how to work, and helped them in their work. When he had labored among them one year, he had one religious convert, but many of the tribe could take better care of their land than when he commenced his work. The mission farm was about five miles northeast of the present town site of Ottawa, Franklin County. A small school was established here, and successfully conducted.

During the first four or five years, Rev. Mr. Meeker lived in a small log house, originally designed for the storing of supplies. In 1842, a larger two-room log house was built at the Baptist Mission farm, five miles northeast of Ottawa, two-thirds of the expense of construction being borne by the Government. The pay of the missionary was $100 per year each for himself and wife, and $25 per year for each of his children under sixteen years of age, and the privilege of cultivating land sufficient to furnish his family with vegetables and bread.

The printing press was removed from the Shawanoe Station to the Ottawa Mission farm soon after Mr. Meeker's location there, and small books and translations of portions of the New Testament were printed at various times. A church was built, and presided over by one of Mr. Meeker's converts, Mr J. T. Jones, a half-breed Ottawa, educated at Hamilton, N. Y., his wife, also a missionary, being a lady from the State of Maine. Mr. Meeker died at the mission January 11, 1854, and Mrs. Meeker, March 15, 1856, leaving two children, Emeline and Eliza, to each of whom the Ottawas, in 1862, gave eighty acres of land. Both Mr. and Mrs. Meeker were buried among the people they had served so long and faithfully.

Among the publications of Mr. Meeker was a small missionary paper in the English and Cherokee languages, several school books in the Ottawa language, a code of the Ottawa laws, a hymn book and several Sunday school books. The first book printed in Kansas was Mr. Meeker's "Laws Governing the Ottawa Indians," containing from fifty to seventy- five pages. The press upon which this work was done was the first brought into Kansas Territory. From Rev. Mr. Meeker's hands it passed to George W. Brown, of Lawrence, then to S. S. Prouty in June, 1857, who printed on it the Freeman's Champion, at Prairie City, then to the possession of Solomon Weaver, who used it at Lecompton; thence to Cottonwood Falls; thence to Cowley County; and thence to the Indian Territory. It was a Seth Adams press, with twenty stars on it, indicating that it was made in 1817, when there were twenty States in the Union. The type and other material used at the mission farm by Mr. Meeker were scattered broadcast on the prairie by the Indian children, and as late as 1865, handfuls of type could be picked up near where lies buried one of the most zealous missionaries that ever labored in any land.

After the death of Mr. Meeker, the mission farm was under the charge of John Early, a full-blooded Ottawa. There were sixty children attending the school, the whole number of the tribe being about three hundred and twenty-five.

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